Exploring New Worlds with PNCA: Using Design Frameworks to Map Out Stranger Things and the Future of National Parks

02-20-2017 | Ryan Brown | Design

As XPLANE designers, we spend our days using visuals to bring clarity to the complexities of processes and strategies inside of organizations. But, since most of the work is internal, a lot of our proudest projects are confidential and can’t be shared with the public. This fall, we saw the opportunity to share our work with a greater audience while exploring topics we’re passionate about—all while flexing our visual thinking and facilitation skills.

In November, our design team partnered with illustration students at Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA) to bring their talents to two topics we were excited about: the pop culture phenomenon Stranger Things and the National Parks Centennial celebration. Our challenge to the students was to work like an XPLANEr, using our frameworks to illustrate one of these topics in an 11x17” map. Not only was this a great opportunity to collaborate with up-and-coming talent, but also was a chance for our team to share real-life work experiences with a group of eager students and co-create pieces of timely design work.
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Why Flat Teams Need Nurturing in Work Magazine

"In today's complex and evolving business environment, many companies are creating flat teams..." 

XPLANE consultant Nina Narelle was interviewed for a short piece in Work magazine this winter in response to her piece The Silent Killer of Flat Teams The article reads...

"Without any one member directing the others, “these teams hold the promise of agility, innovation and speed – the magic trifecta in a rapidly shifting market”, says Nina Narelle. But flat teams often fail to liveup to this promise because businesses treat them like machines, applying rules and processes as inputs and expecting predictable outputs. Describing tensions between the horizontal nature of the teams and the hierarchical businesses in which they operate as “growing pains” in the evolution of new ways of structuring work, Narelle predicts that one day companies will continually move along a spectrum of organisational structures. Meanwhile, members of flat teams need to develop new ways of working. “To truly leverage the potential, each member must be willing to show up with all of their insights, curiosities and hesitations,” says Narelle. “They must be willing to hold each member of the team accountable, as well as be willing to be held accountable themselves.” Business leaders, she adds, can help flat teams succeed by explaining why horizontal structures require new behaviour and modelling this themselves."

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Creating Collaboration in a Room Full of Opinions

If the smartest person in the room is the room, it’s important to give the introverts and extroverts an equal voice.

The average person spends about one-third of the week in meetings. It will come as little surprise that in a typical group of eight, three people do 70% of the talking.

When meetings are full of a mix of loud extroverts and shy introverts, communication is uneven, and often only the opinions of the loud people get heard.We always say the smartest person in the room is the room because the collective insights of the group are always superior to a few loud voices. How can you foster a culture of collaboration among a group of people with different backgrounds, different comfort levels, and different seniority levels of your org? We’ve gathered four exercises we use in our meetings and sessions (internally at XPLANE and with our clients) to make sure that everyone’s voice is heard equally and the room is as smart as it can be.

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The Knowing Doing Gap


In 1982, Buckminster Fuller noted that the amount of human knowledge doubled every 100 years, a phenomenon he dubbed the Knowledge Doubling Curve. This trend is accelerating. According to IBM research, humans have created more data in the past two years than in the entire history of the human race.

Many smart entrepreneurs have used these new opportunities to innovate and disrupt. On the flipside, this explosion of data and knowledge puts new demands on established organizations to keep up with the dizzying pace of innovation. Although large organizations have access to more of this data than anyone else, they struggle to turn that information into an advantage.

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Create Change By Redesigning Your Thinking - Dave Gray on the Business Model Sandbox Podcast

01-18-2017 | XPLANE | Change

"Saul Kaplan and Dave Gray, founder of XPLANE, discuss the concept of liminal thinking: The art of creating change by understanding, shaping, and reframing your own beliefs." 

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Breaking Down Design Thinking - Matt Morasky on the Metastential Podcast

01-17-2017 | Lauren Gantner | Design

This week, senior consultant Matt Morasky was interviewed on Portland's Metastential Podcast.

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XPLANE Named One of The 100 Best Companies to Work For in Oregon

01-03-2017 | Katie Augsburger | News

Once again, we are proud to announce that XPLANE has been ranked one of the top 100 Best Companies to Work For in Oregon by Oregon Buisness magazine!

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The Smartest Person in the Room

Most meetings are full of blah, blah, blah; they’re speech-heavy and one-directional. We use agendas to give meetings structure. Within this structure we all have our own agendas. We want to convey our personal beliefs and judgements about the best route towards a common direction. We count on our words and our PowerPoint presentations to move our agendas forward. We assume that they are enough to create shared understanding. But are they really?

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How to Design and Implement Organizational Culture

12-19-2016 | Lauren Gantner | Culture, News

Through our 20+ years of experience working with clients throughout the Fortune 500, we know that it's 100% possible to design and implement an organizational culture change. At the Design as Business Conference this past month, XPLANErs Tanner Bechtel and Dave King dove in to highly-actionable steps to get past talking and onto driving change when your company is stuck.

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How Do You Communicate Effectively in the Workplace? Use Visuals.

Updated 7/20/2017

We’ve seen it: the CEO of a Global 2000 company at the whiteboard drawing stick figures and lines. Or the well-renowned leaders of a national logistics company doodling themselves as superheroes. For most organizations, these kind of habits are completely out of the ordinary. But why?

If your ideas can’t be drawn, they can’t be done. In XPLANE's 20+ years of experience working with clients, we have found that the most effective workplace communication strategies all involve one key component: visual thinking.

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